Enes Freedom

Stein’s Latest: Simmons, Mavs, Lakers, Freedom, I. Thomas

“Contrary to recent reports,” the Mavericks have no interest in trading for Nets swingman Ben Simmons, league sources tell Marc Stein in his latest post at Substack.

A couple of weeks ago, Ian Begley of SNY.tv reported that the Nets had “cursory” trade talks with a Western Conference team, then later said those discussions were about a veteran shooter, and Simmons’ name came up. Begley cautioned that those talks may not have advanced beyond the exploratory stage, but Brooklyn was rumored to be “aggressive” in its pursuit of shooting.

On the heels of Begley’s reports, a Western Conference executive told Heavy.com’s Sean Deveney last week that the Mavericks might be worth watching.

Dallas is a team to watch, Simmons would be an interesting fit next to Luka (Doncic) if the Nets were willing to take back (Tim) Hardaway and (Davis) Bertans. I am not sure how much higher the Mavs could go in terms of an offer but that would definitely be interesting for Luka.”

Stein says the Mavericks may have been mentioned “to try to create some sort of market for Simmons,” who has yet to regain his old form after missing all of last season. Simmons missed his fifth game of 2022/23 Sunday with knee soreness, though he seems confident it won’t be a long-term injury.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • The Lakers have taken a look at some free agents, but Stein gets the sense that they’ll wait until Dennis Schröder and Thomas Bryant return before making any roster changes. Both players have yet to make their season debuts after each had thumb surgery last month, but they’re expected to play on Friday. The Lakers are hopeful Schröder can provide an offensive boost, Stein adds.
  • After Dwight Howard signed a seven-figure deal to join the Taoyuan Leopards, other Taiwanese clubs are looking at veteran NBA free agents, according to Stein, who writes that Enes Freedom and Isaiah Thomas are among the targets.
  • Carmelo Anthony is another veteran being pursued by a Taiwanese team, but “it’s widely presumed” that the 38-year-old “is holding out for another NBA opportunity,” says Stein. Anthony averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 rebounds on .441/.375/.830 shooting in 69 games (26.0 minutes) for the Lakers last season.

And-Ones: T. Scott, 2023 Draft, ’23 Cap, Freedom

NBA and G League veteran Tre Scott is headed overseas for the 2022/23 season, having signed with Fos Provence Basket, the French team announced in a press release.

Scott, who went undrafted out of Cincinnati in 2020, has spent most of his first two professional seasons in the NBAGL, playing for the Salt Lake City Stars, the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, and the Cleveland Charge.

The 6’8″ forward earned a call-up to the NBA last December during the league’s COVID-19 outbreak, signing a 10-day hardship deal with the Cavaliers. He appeared in two games for the Cavs during his brief NBA stint, scoring six points and grabbing a couple rebounds in 11 total minutes of action.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report shares his first 2023 mock draft, headed by French big man Victor Wembanyama and G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson. Overtime Elite wing Amen Thompson, Duke swingman Dariq Whitehead, and Villanova forward Cam Whitmore round out Wasserman’s initial top five.
  • Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype takes a look at the teams currently projected to have the most cap room in 2023, including the Spurs, Rockets, Pistons, and Magic.
  • In an interview with Israeli outlet Walla, free agent center Enes Freedom said he hasn’t received any offers from NBA teams this offseason (hat tip to Johnny Askounis of Eurohoops). Freedom attributed that lack of NBA interest to the comments he has made denouncing China, though it’s worth noting that his minutes were already on the decline due to his subpar outside shooting and defense.

Enes Freedom Interested In Playing In Greece

If Enes Freedom can’t hook on with another NBA team, he wants to play in Greece, Sportando relays.

Freedom would be interested in signing with Panathinaikos, partially for political reasons, he told Greek publications Ethnikos Kirikas.

“My first goal is to play in the NBA and I want to be there,” he said. “However, if this does not happen, I have grown up watching Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, and other teams, but first of all, I would like to meet with the Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis. I would like to shake his hand and thank him for accepting the Turkish refugees. This is an important step of the friendship between Greece and Turkey.

“Then, I would like to talk to him about the possibility to come to a team like Panathinaikos and build a friendship between the two countries. If I play in a Greek team, it will not be just for basketball. I want to build a bridge between these people,” Freedom added. “We are not so far away: we eat the same food, while our cultures are very similar. Panathinaikos is the first choice in Europe. Let’s not forget that my friend Mario Hezonja played there as well.”

Freedom became a free agent shortly after he was traded from Boston to Houston on February 10. He was officially waived by the Rockets four days later and later asserted his outspoken views on China contributed to the lack of interest from other NBA teams.

He appeared in 35 games with Boston this season after seeing action in 72 games with Portland last season.

Enes Freedom Not Considering Retirement

Veteran NBA center Enes Freedom believes his public comments criticizing China’s human rights record – and the NBA for doing business with the country – led to his lack of playing time and his release, writes Sopan Deb of The New York Times.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why I got little playing time and was released,” Freedom said. “But it does take people with a conscience to speak out and say it’s not right.”

While Freedom likened his recent experience in the NBA to Colin Kaepernick’s in the NFL, commissioner Adam Silver called that comparison “completely unfounded and unfair,” disputing the idea that the NBA has blackballed the player formerly known as Enes Kanter.

“We spoke directly about his activities this season,” Silver told The New York Times. “And I made it absolutely clear to him that it was completely within his right to speak out on issues that he was passionate about.”

Freedom claimed that Silver is mischaracterizing their conversation, but didn’t offer specifics, according to Deb.

Freedom, who stated earlier this season that league officials attempted to stop him from wearing shoes that read “Free Tibet” during a Celtics game, has since said those officials were actually with the C’s, Deb adds. Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said staff members merely asked Freedom if his shoes violated the league’s dress code.

“Even the next day, I just walked up to him and said, ‘Hey, you always have our support to freely express yourself and say what you want,'” Stevens told The New York Times. According to Deb, Freedom confirmed that exchange.

As Deb observes, it would be difficult to prove Freedom’s blackball allegations one way or the other, since the veteran center’s role had already been declining before he began speaking out about China.

The 29-year-old is a talented inside scorer and rebounder, but doesn’t have an outside shot and has long been considered a defensive liability (Billy Donovan‘s infamous in-game “can’t play Kanter” quote occurred all the way back in 2017). Other former lottery picks with similar skill sets, such as Greg Monroe and Jahlil Okafor, are also currently out of the NBA.

Freedom has been out of work since he was traded from Boston to Houston on February 10 and officially waived by the Rockets four days later, but he won’t give up his efforts to get back into the league, as Deb relays.

“I don’t want to retire at the age of 29,” Freedom said.

And-Ones: Freedom, Buyout Market, Sharpe, Salary Cap

Enes Freedom, who was waived by Houston on Monday, has become increasingly involved in political and social justice activism within the last year, taking aim in particular at China’s record on human rights. However, there’s a sense that if he doesn’t get picked up by an NBA team, it will be more about what he can do on the court than anything he has said off of it, writes Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com.

“I don’t know if anyone else signs him. Maybe not,” one general manager told Bulpett. “I think from a basketball standpoint, it’s really questionable. I’m not sure if any of the other stuff will even come into play. I don’t think he won’t get a job because of anything he’s said or done. I think he just doesn’t guard, and the game is changing. He plays a lot older than he really is.”

There are plenty of teams around the NBA with open roster spots, so there certainly could be one (or more) interested in bringing in Freedom as a bench scorer, despite his defensive shortcomings. If that doesn’t happen, the veteran center would apparently be open to playing in Europe, as Antigoni Zachari of Eurohoops relays.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The buyout market is beginning to show signs of life, with word breaking this morning that San Antonio and Goran Dragic have reached a buyout agreement. Before that deal was made, John Hollinger of The Athletic took a closer look at some of the buyout candidates who could shake free in the coming weeks — Dragic was the No. 3 player on Hollinger’s list.
  • In a separate story for The Athletic, Hollinger handed out his trade deadline awards, dubbing the Kings‘ acquisition of Donte DiVincenzo the “biggest unexpected steal,” calling the Jazz‘s deal for Nickeil Alexander-Walker the deadline’s “most underwhelming trade,” and referring the Celtics‘ addition of Derrick White as the “trade we’ll talk about a lot more in April,” depending on how the rest of Boston’s season plays out.
  • There’s a possibility Shaedon Sharpe could enter the 2022 NBA draft without playing a single college game, making him one of the most enigmatic prospects in years, according to Jonathan Givony and Mike Schmitz of ESPN (Insider link). Givony and Schmitz explore how NBA teams are evaluating Sharpe, noting that most clubs are preparing for Sharpe to declare for the draft despite John Calipari‘s claim that the freshman guard plans to be back with Kentucky in 2022/23.
  • Jared Weiss of The Athletic takes an interesting, in-depth look at the creation of the NBA’s salary cap and Bird rights, explaining how they revolutionized the league.

Rockets Waive Enes Freedom

The Rockets have officially waived center Enes Freedom, the team announced today (Twitter link via Marc Stein). The move had been expected.

Freedom was one of three players Houston acquired in its deadline-day deal that sent Daniel Theis to Boston. The other two, Dennis Schröder and Bruno Fernando, remain under contract with the Rockets. Like Freedom though, they’re on expiring deals, so it’s unclear if they’ll be part of the Rockets’ plans going forward.

Freedom, formerly known as Enes Kanter, signed a one-year, minimum-salary contract to return to the Celtics in the 2021 offseason, but didn’t play a major role with the club, averaging 3.7 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 35 games (11.7 MPG). The big man has always been a talented scorer and rebounder, but is a defensive liability, particularly in a scheme like Ime Udoka‘s that employed frequent switching.

Because he was on a minimum-salary contract, Freedom could be claimed off waivers by any team using the minimum salary exception. If he goes unclaimed, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent on Wednesday and would be eligible to sign with any team except Boston. NBA rules prohibit teams from re-signing a player they just traded away in the event he’s cut by his new club.

Rockets Trade Daniel Theis To Celtics For Schröder, Two Others

8:27pm: The trade is official, according to press releases from both the Celtics and Rockets. As expected, Houston has officially waived guards D.J. Augustin and Armoni Brooks in order to complete the deal.

2:03pm: The Rockets are sending Daniel Theis back to the Celtics, Kelly Iko of The Athletic reports (via Twitter). Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets that it will be for a package including Dennis Schröder.

Sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link) that Enes Freedom and Bruno Fernando are also be headed to Houston in the deal. Woj reports that the Rockets will waive Freedom (via Twitter).

After sending Bol Bol and PJ Dozier to Orlando, agreeing to trade Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford to San Antonio in exchange for Derrick White, and now dealing three players for one, the Celtics have opened five roster spots today and figure to be aggressive on the buyout market.

Theis, 29, started his NBA career in Boston, appearing in parts of four season with the club prior to being traded to Chicago at last season’s deadline.

He signed a four-year, $35.6MM contract with Houston as a free agent last summer, with the 2024/25 season being a team option. It was a strange signing for a rebuilding Rockets team that had just used two first-round picks on young big men Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba. Theis had fallen out of the team’s rotation as it prioritized youth, averaging 8.4 points and 5.0 rebounds through 26 games (22.5 minutes).

Theis will provide a major defensive upgrade over Freedom and should see some backup center minutes for his old team. Obviously, the Celtics have a high level of familiarity with the German big man, and he’s been teammates with the majority of the roster after just being dealt away last year.

For the Rockets, the move is mostly about clearing their books. Schröder is having another decent year, averaging 14.4 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists through 49 games (29.2 minutes), but he’s on an expiring $5.9MM contract, which was the main appeal. Freedom and Fernando are also in the final year of their respective deals.

Fernando can become a restricted free agent this summer if Houston tenders him a qualifying offer, but that seems unlikely given the limited contributions he’s provided this point in his career. Still, the Rockets get a look at 23-year-old big man to see if they want to keep him around beyond this season.

It will be interesting to see if a market develops for Schröder this summer after he failed to secure the large contract he was hoping for in 2021. I suspect he’ll still fall in the mid-level exception range, as not many teams will have cash to spend on free agents in 2022.

COVID-19 Updates: Raptors, Thunder, Stewart, Freedom, Strus

After briefly having no players in the NBA’s health and safety protocols for the first time in weeks, the Raptors placed Svi Mykhailiuk and Yuta Watanabe in the protocols today, tweets Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca (via Twitter), only three players on the Raptors’ roster have avoided entering the protocols in the last month. Two of those players – David Johnson (injury) and Goran Dragic (personal) – have been away from the team, leaving Chris Boucher as the lone active player not to be affected.

Here are a few more protocol-related updates:

  • Thunder guard Tre Mann and big man Darius Bazley have cleared the health and safety protocols, acting head coach Mike Wilks said today (Twitter link via Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman). That leaves rookie Jeremiah Robinson-Earl as the only Oklahoma City player still in the protocols.
  • Celtics center Enes Freedom returned to practice today, having exited the COVID-19 protocols, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (Twitter link). Aaron Nesmith is the only Celtic who remains in the protocols.
  • Isaiah Stewart has cleared the protocols and met the Pistons in Charlotte, tweets James Edwards III of The Athletic. It’s unclear if the big man will be available on Wednesday vs. the Hornets or if he’ll need more time to get back into game condition.
  • Heat guard Max Strus is no longer in the protocols, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). Miami now has four players in the protocols, with six hardship additions on 10-day deals, so not all of those players will be able to be active going forward.
  • The full list of players in the COVID-19 protocols can be found right here.

COVID-19 Updates: Celtics, Lakers, Raptors

Celtics reserve point guard Dennis Schröder has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will not play in today’s Christmas game against the Bucks, the team has announced (Twitter link). He joins eight other Celtics in the protocols.

In a more positive twist, Juancho Hernangómez, Jabari Parker, and Brodric Thomas have exited the league’s COVID-19 protocols and are available for today’s game, per Jared Weiss of The Athletic (via Twitter). Guards Marcus Smart, who has been dealing with a hip injury, and Romeo Langford, who has missed time due to an Achilles injury, are also available. Boston center Al Horford is out of the league’s coronavirus protocols but is still working on his conditioning and has been ruled out for the contest.

Here are more COVID-19 protocol updates from around the NBA:

  • Lakers guards Avery Bradley and Malik Monk have left the league’s COVID-19 protocols and will be able to suit up today for Los Angeles against the Nets, per Bill Oram of The Athletic (Twitter link).
  • Raptors players Khem Birch, Isaac Bonga, and Justin Champagnie have entered the league’s COVID-19 protocols, though Dalano Banton has apparently exited, per Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link). A total of 10 Toronto players are now in the protocols. Toronto’s previously-scheduled game on Wednesday, against the Bulls, was canceled as a result of the Raptors not having enough players available. The team’s next game is scheduled for tomorrow against the Cavaliers. Lewenberg adds (via Twitter) that Raptors rookie shooting guard David Johnson (calf) and veteran point guard Goran Dragic (personal) also continue to be unavailable.
  • Keep track of all the NBA players within the league’s health and safety protocols on our tracker here.

COVID-19 Notes: Freedom, McClaughlin, Kings, Vaccines

Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom has entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). Freedom was out of the rotation during the first month of the season, but had appeared in 19 straight games for Boston and even played 40 minutes in his first start of the season on Monday vs. Philadelphia.

As our tracker shows, the Celtics now have eight players in the COVID-19 protocols. They’re probably still a few days away from some of those players returning, since all of them have entered the protocols in the last week.

Here are a few more COVID-related updates:

  • Mavericks two-way player JaQuori McLaughlin has entered the health and safety protocols, according to the team (Twitter link). McLaughlin joins Luka Doncic and five other teammates — Dallas has had to place seven players in the protocols in the last six days.
  • In a well-reported story on the impact of the NBA’s COVID-19 surge, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Baxter Holmes share a number of interesting anecdotes, including how both Kings equipment managers contracted COVID-19 and couldn’t work, forcing the team to temporarily transfer those duties to a video room intern and a game-night attendant.
  • Within that ESPN story, Wojnarowski and Holmes say that some team executives around the league believe asymptomatic players should be allowed to play, but that idea is a “non-starter” for now in the eyes of NBA and NBPA leadership. ESPN’s duo also reports that almost one-third of the NBA’s vaccinated players initially received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which offers a lower level of protection than the Pfizer or Moderna shots.